February 4, 2013 · Categories: Wellness · Tags:

At its core, the ancient wellness system of Ayurveda is essentially about living in harmony with both inner and outer nature. By “inner nature” I mean the combination of the three doshas—Vata, Pitta, and Kapha—that we are born with and that help determine our unique constitution. I also include the particular physiological systems that house all the biological, microbiological, and molecular functions in our bodies. These include the skeletal, nervous, circulatory, respiratory, and other bodily systems along with all of their components.

Outer nature, on the other hand, consists of the ways we are connected to the outside world. For Ayurveda, there is no such thing as an isolated human unconnected to anything else. We are related to external nature in many ways: to the sun that warms us, the air we breathe, the liquids we drink, and the food out there on the dinner plate that will soon be inside our body. Many of these outside relationships are beneficial, but the world also includes dangers such as tornadoes, tigers, and debilitating viruses. In addition, many beneficial things can become hazards if we are not careful. The sun not only warms, it can also burn us if we are exposed to it too long. The air we breathe can be pure and healthy, or it can be dirty and loaded with lung-challenging chemicals. No doubt you can think of many other examples.

We must try our best to coexist in harmony with this double-edged universe. For Ayurveda—the wisdom of healthy living—it is paramount to understand how outer nature affects our inner nature. Which foods energize our bodies, which clog our arteries? Which herbs sharpen our minds, which dull our senses? With these understandings, we are much better able to balance inner with outer nature.

But here’s the problem: over thousands of years Ayurveda and other nature-focused wellness systems developed much wisdom about living in harmony with nature, but today this knowledge has been forgotten by many. For millions today, especially those in urban environments, nature can seem foreign and far away. Yet the truth is, we are still the children of nature no matter where we live. The air we breathe, every bit of food we eat, and the viruses that can lay us low are all part of the natural world. Ayurveda instructs us to respect our place in outer nature and understand how to work in harmony with it. To try to create health in our inner nature without working in harmony with outer nature is like trying to create friendship without kindness. It just can’t be done.

For more information, please read my book: The Soul of Wellness.

February 3, 2013 · Categories: Wellness · Tags:

Combining the two Sanskrit words—ayu, meaning life, and veda, meaning knowledge—the term Ayurveda means the knowledge or wisdom of healthy living. This holistic health and wellness system began over 5,000 years ago on the Indian subcontinent. Today it is the primary wellness resource for India’s one billion people.

Philosophically, Ayurveda rests on the idea that we humans are integral parts of a universe that is not only physical but also permeated by Mind and Spirit. Since we reflect the universe in our nature, we too are a unity of Body, Mind, and Spirit. This unity begins at birth when we are animated by prana, a life force present throughout the universe. At the same time, we are infused with five universal principles—air, space, fire, water, and earth. In our bodies, heat represents fire, moisture represents water, flesh and bones represent earth, and the qualities of lightness and spaciousness represent air and space.

How these qualities are combined in our being is determined by three bio-energetic forces that affect body, mind, and spirit. These are the three doshas:

Vata  –  represents air and space

Pitta  –  represents fire and water

Kapha  –  represents water and earth

In the body, the energy of Vata governs bodily movement, perception, circulation, and respiration. Pitta governs metabolism. Kapha governs growth and lubrication, including bodily tissues such as muscle and fat. In the mind, Vata relates to the movement from thought to thought, Pitta helps us assimilate our thoughts to gain understanding, and Kapha enhances memory and empathy. In our spiritual aspect, Vata manifests as the life force, Pitta determines how brilliant the life force is, and Kapha governs our ability to protect our life force in the face of threats and adversity.

Each of us is born with a unique combination of the three doshas, which determines each individual’s specific constitution. Some people are primarily Vata types with fewer qualities of Pitta and Kapha, others are mostly Pitta or Kapha, and some have two or even three primary doshas. Our doshas are in equilibrium at birth, but if internal or external stresses disturb this balance, we can become vulnerable to disease.

The Ayurvedic physician’s objective is to understand the patient’s unique constitution of doshas and to help maintain or restore the correct balance. This is done through prescribing a precise regimen of diet, sleep, and other activities to match the patient’s constitution. The use of herbs, massage, and meditation for maintaining or restoring equilibrium are common therapies in Ayurveda. The Ayurvedic practitioner also often devises strategies to enhance a patient’s psychological and spiritual wellness. Overall, the Ayurvedic physician strives to promote the patient’s wellness in all aspects of his or her being.

For more information, please read my book: The Soul of Wellness.

January 22, 2013 · Categories: Wellness · Tags:

Four Interrelated Pillars Supporting Our Lives

Following is a summary of a chapter from my book, “The Soul of Wellness“, available on Amazon.com

Wellness of Body

“Physical wellness is crucial because your body is one of your two fundamental instruments for living. It is through your body that you are able to see and smell the beauty of a rose and hear the lilting call of a bird. It is by means of your body that you can stroll through a park, refinish a bookcase, and change a diaper to insure the cleanliness of your baby. The healthier your body, the better you are able to perceive the world around you and perform a thousand important functions each day.”

Wellness of Mind

“Your mind consists of a cognitive (thinking) part and an affective (feeling) part. The cognitive part includes your beliefs, thoughts, and imaginings. Through this aspect of your mind, you are able to make sense of your experiences, communicate with others, and plan for your future. The affective part includes your emotions, motivations, and attitudes toward life. This aspect of your mind enables you to enjoy a beautiful sunset, feel empathy for a friend, and get excited about a new project. Wellness of Mind encompasses both parts of your mind. It includes thinking clearly, taking a positive approach to the world, and finding interest and joy in the world around you. Wellness of Mind is essential for living a happy life steeped in rich, rewarding experiences.”

Wellness of Heart

“This dimension consists of your relationships with other people. I use the word ‘Heart’ because traditionally, we think of the heart as the source of our caring for others. It is Heart that takes you out to lunch with a friend, cares for a child who is ill, and enjoys a barbecue with your neighbors. Wellness of Heart includes spending quality time with family and friends. It also means showing kindness to others and concern for those less fortunate than you. There is ample reason to believe that happiness and overall well-being depend on living a life with Heart as much as they do on physical and mental health.

Wellness of Spirit

“… without Spirit, total wellness in any dimension is impossible to achieve. This is most obvious for Heart. Without Spirit, Heart degenerates into cold, uncaring relationships lacking in kindness and respect. For millions of people, such relationships are the norm. Without Spirit, the dimension of Heart has no heart.

This is because Spirit is the wellspring of love. Consider a mother cradling her baby in her arms, cherishing and protecting the little child. There is nothing more full of Spirit than the mother’s actions at that moment. And there is nothing more full of Heart. The two go hand in hand. Spirit infuses the Heart with love, and we carry that love to our relationships with others. Without Spirit, there is no true Heart and no wellness of Heart.”

The “Soul of Wellness” is available on Amazon.com.